Dr. Celine Gounder, epidemiologist and professor at NYU, urged Americans to get vaccinated and boosted as the best way protect themselves until it becomes clear how well the current Covid vaccines might work against the new omicron variant.
“The idea is to buy ourselves time if omicron does turn out to be an immune-evading variant,” Dr. Gounder told “The News with Shepard Smith” on Monday night. ”It’s really a way of protecting people … until companies like Pfizer and Moderna are able to develop second generation Omicron specific vaccines.”
Moderna CEO Stephanie Bancel told CNBC on Monday that he estimates it will take months to create an omicron specific vaccine, but higher dose boosters might be able to bridge the gap in the meantime.
Omicron, the newest Covid variant, was first discovered in South Africa. Last week, the World Health Organization labeled omicron a “variant of concern.” Travel restrictions went into effect for non-US citizens last Friday for South Africa and seven other countries.
Dr. Grounder said, “I’m concerned. I’m not panicking. I think there’s still a lot we’re waiting to find out, and I do think in about two weeks we should at least have some answers as to whether omicron is immune evading and how well our vaccines will hold up.”
President Joe Biden also encouraged vaccinations and boosters. He said that in the “hopefully unlikely” event that updated vaccines would be necessary the U.S. would “accelerate their development and deployment with every tool.”